The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - 10 things we learned on set

Yahoo UK Movies Features

Yahoo Movies visited the set of ‘The Hobbit’ back in summer 2012. By that point filming was underway on the second and third installments – ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ and ‘There and Back Again’.

[Cate Blanchett will only appear in one Hobbit sequel]

We spoke to director Peter Jackson and stars Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Martin Freeman (Bilbo) and Luke Evans (Bard) about the hotly anticipated sequel and the series as a whole. Here are some of the more interesting insights…

Jackson wanted to make ‘The Hobbit’ before ‘Lord of the Rings’

“Starting with ‘The Hobbit’ was sensible from a chronological point of view and a logistical point of view,” said Jackson.  Back in 1995 they pitched ‘The Hobbit’ as one film to Miramax, to be followed by a ‘Lord of the Rings’ two-parter. The problem with MGM owning half the rights scuppered their plan.

“’The Lord of the Rings’ happened simply because of the MGM rights situation,” said Jackson, “which ultimately nearly overturned this film. After 12 or 14 years it was still an issue that we had to deal with.”

Gandalf has a new nose

McKellen said he didn’t change his portrayal of Gandalf much for ‘The Hobbit’, but revealed that the character does look subtly different. “The first thing I was given was a new nose. So the sharp-eyed will see that Gandalf doesn't look the same.” See if you can spot it below.

Lake Town is a prime location

Much of the action in ‘Desolation’ takes place in Lake-Town, a city made of wood stretching across the Long Lake (think a Middle Earth Venice). The production team promised a location “unlike anything you’ve seen in the films so far”, and Bilbo star Martin Freeman thinks they spend more time there than in the book. “There's more space in certain parts of the story. It really breathes,” he said.

Bilbo “like a war veteran” in the second film

Scriptwriters Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh amped up Bilbo’s character development to add story arcs for each film. “Bilbo, certainly by the second film, should be different,” said Freeman. “Not a different person, but be showing different things about him than when he was in Bag End at the start of the film.

“It's very clear who and what he is at the beginning of the first film. He's us, really. [By the second film] he's killed a few things and people and other species and been in near-death experiences a lot. He’s very different in that way that people who come back from combat are different."

Jackson didn’t ‘reinvent the wheel’ with Smaug
Smaug is perhaps the most exciting element to be revealed in ‘Desolation’, and Jackson promised he would be “a really cool dragon”. “But I'm not reinventing the wheel.” He said. “I don't want to do anything too clever, I just want to make an absolutely terrifying-looking dragon.”

“Smaug has to be perfect for the story that we are telling, and everything that he needs to do in ‘The Hobbit’; be absolutely terrifying, be able to destroy a city, be able to have sly conversations with Bilbo, all of that we're building into the design of the character and the way that he looks.”

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman never met on set

On voice-over duties for Smaug is Freeman’s ‘Sherlock’ co-star Benedict Cumberbatch. As you can hear from the trailer, he sounds incredible, but Freeman never actually heard him on set.

“No, he wasn't there,” Freeman said. “He had recorded his stuff before I got there for this last block. And I had Leith, our dialect coach, reading in this sort of amplified mic. It was all done with her voice, very, very loud, and me reacting to it.

“But I'm familiar with Ben's voice and Peter had played me his read. So I had Ben's voice in my head while I'm getting the dialogue from Leith. So at least we were able to do something live.”

The Hobbit team let Freeman take a break to do ‘Sherlock’

Freeman was always the number one choice to play Bilbo, and the producers of ‘The Hobbit’ liked him so much they even let him take a break in the film’s 18-month shooting schedule to film episodes of ‘Sherlock’.

“I don't know how self-effacing I can be and it not sound like absolute bulls**t. Yes, they love me. I can't help it. I said it. It's an amazing compliment and one that I still find quite hard to fathom. It was like my agent was playing a joke on me when he said, "They're going to put it into different sections so you can do Sherlock." Very weird.”

Everyone in Dale is now Welsh, thanks to Luke Evans

Evans, who plays pivotal character Bard in ‘Desolation’, was finally able to use his own accent for a film role after Philippa Boyens made him audition in his natural brogue.

“It has a huge effect on the story of Dale [his character’s hometown]” he said. “Because I'm an ancestor of Dale, I come from Dale, my ancestors are from Dale. And so they made everybody who has ancestry of Dale Welsh. So now there's people in Lake-town who speak with a Welsh accent and you know that they have great-great-great-grandfathers or grandmothers that were actually from Dale. So all my children are Welsh in the film, I'm Welsh, and so Dale will always be Wales to me, which is a really nice thing. So yeah, that's probably the biggest stamp that I've put on this character.”

McKellen pitched a scene about Gandalf’s domestic routine

Sir Ian revealed some surprisingly practical concerns about his character, including how he maintained a “smooth chest” and what his morning routine was.

“The one disappointment is that Peter had half-promised [a scene showing] Gandalf getting up in the morning.

“I said, ‘why can't I keep everything in my hat?" So if he was hungry, he just went in and out came an apple. Or a sandwich. Or a toothbrush. Or a razorblade. Oh, he doesn't use a razorblade. Except on his chest. So everything was in there, you know? And that would have been a wonderful thing because he can do a bit of magic. And why has he got this big, pointy hat? Because it's a big, pointy bag that he wears on his head. But we never got around to that.”

Sounds like an amazing DVD extra to us.

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ is released in the UK on December 13, 2013.